We had been planning this vacation for months and we were finally off to Perdido Key, Florida, a wonderful, beautiful beach on the Gulf of Mexico. If you’ve ever seen pictures of white sand and blue water, that’s where we were headed. My brother Steve, his wife Dawn, their three kids, Banks, me and our four kids. Two cars, two great condos and all the buckets, pails, shell nets and sunscreen you could fit into the trunk and we were off!
We had lots of things planned but mostly it involved the beach, eating, sightseeing and hanging out. It was such a blessing to be able to spend time with a family you loved.
On our agenda was a dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in the area. We had lots of options but finally chose an Italian place that specialized in local seafood.
The restaurant was nicely furnished in a sophisticated Tuscan style with a decidedly appropriate beach flair with lots of browns and golds and blue water features. The windows overlooked the docks where pleasure crafts, small yachts and fishing boats were tied up. Very nice dinner viewing! They had a main dining room and various side rooms where couples, families and groups of friends were enjoying a meal together. The host led our small crowd of 11 to one of those side rooms. The tables were set up in a T shape with one long table at the top of the T, a long table forming the leg of the T and four smaller tables on each side. We took the table at the leg of the T, sat down and began our much -anticipated meal with menus and waters all around. We interacted, talked, laughed and ordered. We were truly enjoying ourselves. I remember thinking how grateful I was for family as I watched all the kids talking to each other.
As the side tables began filling up, we got our food. It was as good as we had hoped and we continued to enjoy each other’s company while discussing all the experiences we had had so far on our beach vacation together.
Towards the middle of our meal, the host brought in a group of 10 people, five couples who looked to all be in their early sixties and seated them at the table at the top of the T. They sat down and did as we had done – perused the menus, ordered drinks and began talking to each another. The way they joyfully interacted indicated this group of people were good friends. The boisterousness of their conversation only served to confirm this indication.
As we continued our meal, the conversation of the people at the top of the T began to get even more joyful and animated as the decibel level increased. We were having to ask each other to repeat what was being said at our table because it was a bit difficult to hear over the conversations and laughter coming from the top of the room. I noticed the kids not talking as much and instead looking at our loud companions, who were, by the way, oblivious to what the other people in the room were experiencing by their domination of the environment.
In fact, after a few more minutes it was quite impossible to hear anything other than their laughing and speaking – it was that loud. And constant. They had no lulls or quiet moments in the dinner they were enjoying.
At this point in the evening, all the rest of us in the room could do was look at our own dinner companions and smile as we ate in silence because any conversation was impossible. The people at the smaller tables began asking the wait staff if they could move to another room so they could finish their meal in a quieter environment. Banks called the waiter over and asked if management could come in and ask them to hold it down a bit. Basically, he was told that this group had come in a few days before and spent a good bit of money, so they would be willing to let it go on for a bit longer before they said anything.
I also spent some time looking at this group of people God had let us encounter that evening and I felt something stirring inside of me. After we finished our dinner and paid the bill, my usual, agreeable, non-confrontational self became a little bit emboldened. I told Banks, Steve and Dawn to go ahead and take the kids outside and I would join them in a few minutes. I took out a small notebook from my purse and began to write a note to this group of people who had made dinner so difficult.
The note said something like this:
“Hello. It is wonderful to see a group of people who so enjoy each other’s company. You all must be really good friends.
But I would like to point something out to you. Your conversations and laughter tonight were quite loud and overwhelming for the rest of us in the room. My family had to cease our own discussions because we could not hear each other talk because your voices dominated the space. People at the other tables asked to be moved. If you look around, you will notice there is no one left in the room.
I know it might not be important to you, but this meal was something my family was really looking forward to while on vacation at this wonderful beach and it was difficult for us to be here because of what your table was doing. We spend a lot of time teaching our children respect for others and to be aware of how their actions affect people and we will speak of this again tonight when they will, undoubtedly ask us why your table was so loud.
Please understand I am not angry. I would just like you to be aware, in the future, of how your actions impact other people.
Thank you for your understanding and I hope you all enjoy the rest of your evening.”
I folded the paper in half, went over, stood at the side of their table and smiled. I just stood there until they all noticed me and stopped talking. I looked at each of them, kept smiling, put the folded piece of notebook paper on the table and left.
When I got outside, I told my family what I had just done and all their reactions were the same – a mouth open, shocked look on their faces because it was so out of character for me to do anything like that. “This, from one of the most non-confrontational people I know?!” was Banks’ comment!
I really am non-confrontational and don’t like to rock the boat. But I didn’t do it out of animosity. It really bothered me that the ones who had authority in this situation – management – did nothing to make the situation right. It was like God was speaking to me about Christians abdicating the authority we have been given by Jesus to make things right. We do a whole lot of lamenting about how bad things are getting in our society but rarely take the initiative to bring God answers to situations because we are afraid of what it might look like to others if we did. I guess my soul was resonating with that fact and I was moved to write the note.
I was glad I had done it, but the part of me that likes things to be in harmony worried that I had made them mad with the note and it bothered me. Oh well, I would never see them again anyway!
Except for the next morning!
It was a great morning! Sunny, warm, perfect for a beach day! The condos had a number of chairs they set out for their patrons to use so we gathered all our necessary supplies and headed to the white sand to snag a few of them before it got too crowded. We found a perfect spot and Dawn and I began to set up camp while Banks and Steve took all the kids on a short trek along the blue water in search of dolphins and other sea creatures.
As we were adjusting our towels on the chairs and getting all the sunscreen and coolers of water fixed just so, I noticed a group of people sitting about 30 feet away who were watching us. I didn’t pay too much attention until I finally sat down and saw that they were staring our way, looking back and forth at each other and acting a bit agitated. It was then I realized who this group was – it was the same group of people I had left the note for the night before and my heart began pounding. Because they were staring so hard, I just knew they were ticked and were most likely going to come over and give me a stern reprimand. And a confrontation would inevitably follow. Crap!
To my surprise, after one last stare and discussion among themselves, they began to pack up their things. I watched them load everything into beach bags and then proceed to move down the beach about 50 yards.
I saw Dawn glancing their way and it was then I told her who they were. “Those are the people from the restaurant last night – the ones I left the note for. I can’t believe we are staying at the same place! They must be so mad at me right now.”
Dawn shot right back with perceptive discernment, “Oh no, they’re not mad. God convicted them that what you said was right and they were not able to stand in the light of truth.”
Wow! I was so busy worrying about my own fears that I didn’t even see what God was doing. Did those words the Lord prompted me to write actually cause them to examine their behavior?
I think a small but mighty passion was born inside of me that day.
So what did this situation of seemingly little significance show me? A few things, I believe. First, I really HAVE been thinking a lot about how God- fearing people have given up so much territory. The enemy has planted his people in positions of authority over education, media and business and Christians have settled for it because we do not want people to think badly of us for speaking an opposing opinion. Or probably because we know that opposition will surely come, we are not prepared to take the heat in the form of public ridicule. That’s definitely me – I find it very uncomfortable to make a defense in the face of strong opposition. I would just rather make cookies and offer them to both sides!
But God does ask us to take a side, doesn’t He? Hot or cold, don’t sit on the fence kind of thing. And maybe God stirring my spirit that night showed me He wants me to actually use some of the authority I have as a child of the risen Christ to transform the world – even a tiny part of it at a beach in Florida.
It turns out, my fears of confrontation never materialized that day. I was obedient (although reluctantly!) to what God was stirring in my spirit, He went ahead of me to prepare the way and He even gave me evidence that what I had done made a difference.
I think back on that situation quite often when I feel the Lord asking me to step out in ways that make me uncomfortable.
I believe God is beginning to ask His people to take back territory we have all too easily given up. I believe He is asking small, reluctant people like me and you to do it. I believe – no, I KNOW – He is going ahead of us to prepare situations where we can display righteousness and goodness in the face of darkness and He will move us into the positions we need to take if only we say “Yes, Lord, I will do this small thing for You.” And guess what? Small things turn into big things, big things turn into truth and truth turns into a re-taking of territories to their rightful, Godly place.
What do you say? Are you ready to start re-claiming some territory?!